The neighborhood where my students come from can be full of negativity. My students need to learn how to support each other and accept the mistakes that come with the natural process of learning. Synergy is a strategy that is a core element of my blended model; it defines and reinforces the behaviors that successful teams use to work together to overcome a problem. Synergy has four basic expectations: 1) Push each other's thinking; 2) Share the load; 3) Use Accountable Talk; and 4) Move with speed. I use these expectations in a quick evaluation of each group every time we do group work, and the "winning group" receives a small prize, which reinforces my academic and social expectations and incentivizes friendly competition.
The basketball problem is a built in way to teach the students about rigor. At the beginning of the year, we discussed how math is like an onion. There are many layers and each one is more complex than the last. The "shot" is an opportunity to reward risk-taking and get the students really thinking about the most high-complexity questions that I can ask. For this reason, students are doubly invested in this part of class. One because they want to challenge themselves, and two because they want to get up there and take the shot.
ClassDojo is a free behavior tracking system. I use it everyday to give students feedback on how they're meeting academic and behavioral expectations. As students are given postiive points or "needs work" points, a sound beeps and the entire class hears and sees that a student is being given feedback. Just as with behavior narration, students become more aware about their personal behaviors, following the expectations as they see them reiterated through behavior points. Their scores carry through with them to each class, culminating in a report at the end of the day that goes home to the students' parents. This allows parents to stay in the loop with how students are working and behaving at school.
At the end of each class period, we spend time celebrating the soft skills students exhibited throughout class. Rather than focusing on academic achievements such as tests, we shout out students who show our core values, such as persistence, responsibility, or empathy. This way students get a chance to recognize one another for their support throught class. This ritual also positively reinforces these values, as students feel successful when they get a shout out.